Malaysian GP - Sunday - Race Report
The first since 1955
Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg placed first and second in the Malaysian Grand Prix to give the Mercedes factory team its first one/two finish in a Formula 1 race since 1955.
"It's my eighth year here and finally got that win," said Hamilton who started on the pole and lead all 56 laps in his Silver Arrows Mercedes. "I really just owe it all to the team. They did a fantastic job, the guys back at the factory pushing non-stop to get the car to where it is, and of course to do it (for fuel partner) Petronas on our home ground almost, to get a one-two, I mean it's quite special when you get a one-two. I've not had many in my career and so that makes it even more special. I'm really grateful for all the work that's done. A great day."
Rosberg qualified third but jumped to second in the first corner after the start. He held on to the spot for the rest of the race with the exception of three laps when Nico Hulkenberg, who was on a two stop strategy whereas almost everybody else pitted thrice for a change of Pirellis, took over the position in his Force India.
"I had a great start again," Rosberg said, "even though it was tight with Sebastian (Vettel.) It was very close at the wall and I just closed the eyes, went for the gap and did it. Later I was able to control the pace and to defend my position against Seb but Lewis was out of my reach, so congratulations to him for his win."
The Red Bull were the only cars that could even come close to the Mercedes. Sebastian Vettel qualified second and Daniel Ricciardo fifth. At the end of lap one they were running fourth and third respectively. Vettel passed Ricciardo on lap four and tried to chase after Rosberg. The Red Bull could get close but the Mercedes had plenty in hand. So Vettel wound up finishing third.
"I thought I had a good start," Vettel related, "but then I focused on getting in the tow of Lewis (Hamilton) to maybe attack him going into the first corner. Then Nico (Rosberg) was there on the right and it was quite tight. Daniel (Ricciardo) was coming as well as I was trying to get past Nico. So I lost a place but fortunately I got it back and then later on I was trying to get as close as I could to Nico. At some stage it looked like we are pretty similar, pretty evenly matched but then it's like he found another gear, he was pulling away."
Still, it was not a bad performance for a Red Bull car that could not even last 20 laps in testing just a month ago.
"We need to make big steps because they (Mercedes) are quite far ahead," Vettel said, "but I'm quite happy with the steps we're currently making. It's the first race distance I've done this year, since Brazil, it's the first race distance I've done so that's a big step.
"Obviously, at some stage during testing, we didn't expect to finish the first couple of races so well done to all the guys in the team on the reliability front. It's not a big secret; we know there's still a lot to do. In terms of drivability we're not yet there where we want to be.
"In terms of power, it's not a big secret without giving a hammering but the guys at Viry are flat out to work on that front. Renault is pushing very very hard but at this stage we have to summarize and say that Mercedes did a better job, they're quicker than us so we know that there are a lot of things we have to do better but it's still a bloody good result today, finishing on the podium."
Ricciardo would have finished fourth but he ran into a wall of troubles that eventually caused him to retire.
"It was looking like we could have a solid points finish today; the race was going pretty well," he said. "The start was really good and I made up a couple of positions and I was starting to, let's say, mix it up at the front, which is nice. Its fun being up there and fighting for the top few spot. But then we had a problem at the last pit stop and then we had a puncture. I think we had a front wing failure and a few other things went on and then the stop-go penalty, so the race ended pretty quickly for us, it went from looking good to looking pretty bad in a short amount of time."
The left front wheel was not properly attached during that pit stop, and because Red Bull did an "unsafe release from the pits" Ricciardo got handed a 10 second stop and go penalty and a 10 place grid penalty at the upcoming Bahrain Grand Prix.
Fernando Alonso put in his usual hard-working performance in a Ferrari that is not up to speed. He started and finished fourth.
"The car worked as we had expected and it ran very reliably," he said. "We definitely have a lot more work to do, because while we are moving forward, the others are doing the same. Everyone in our team is doing their utmost to close down the gap. There's still a lot to learn in these early races, but it's no secret that we definitely need to improve our top speed, as could be seen from my duel with Hulkenberg. I was able to get him thanks to fresher tires, but we definitely need to up our performance right from the very next race."
Hulkenberg's pit strategy had him in fourth in the closing stages but he was unable to fend off Alonso's late charge and lost the position with four laps to go.
"We were the only team among the frontrunners to do a two-stop race and we had good pace all afternoon," The Hulk said. "It shows that the team's hard work over the winter is paying off and it feels great to be so competitive and fighting up at the front.
"We showed that we could manage the tires well, although I felt a bit more comfortable on the medium compound tires than on the hards, but we always had the tire management under control. So I'm feeling happy that we can take all these positives to Bahrain and leave Malaysia with a good helping of points."
Jenson Button crossed the line in sixth place in his McLaren with two Williams cars hot on his tail.
"It was hot out there this afternoon!" Button said. "And when you've spent all that time watching the two Williams battling in your mirrors, it makes it feel even hotter. Still, it was an enjoyable race, and I couldn't really have expected more.
"I think we got the most we could out of the package this afternoon, and I didn't think I'd be finishing sixth after the way the car had performed earlier in the weekend. It's encouraging for all the guys that we called both the pit-stops and the fuel usage perfectly throughout the race."
Williams teammates Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas were running in that order and in close formation as they chased after Button. The Williams engineers believed that Bottas would have a better chance of challenging Button and told Massa to cede his position. Massa chose to not hear the instruction.
"He (Massa) didn't do what we would have preferred him to do," Rod Nelson said after the race "You've got to understand that we look to maximize constructors' points whenever we go racing. Felipe was running fairly high temperatures on his engine and we were a little bit concerned about it. And Valtteri had much fresher tires than Jenson did. So we thought that it would be good to give Valtteri a go at getting past Jenson. And if he had not achieved that in two or three laps we'd have swapped our two drivers over again."
What was Massa's view? There was a clear instruction to let Valtteri pass so why did he decide not to?
"Because it was not so clear!" Massa said. "I hear everything but it was not clear. So what I did was correct and I am trying to do the best for the team."
How is the ambience in the team now?
"No problem at all," Massa said, who ended seventh.
Is it all sorted out?
"No problems," Massa said.
Bottas had a different view.
"We're going to talk through it with the team," he said after finishing eighth, "and analyze it and decide what we need to do next time in similar situations, so that we know everything is clear: what are the rules, what we should do in that situation and then we can do better next time. Maybe that will allow us to score more points."
Two rookies - Kevin Magnussen (McLaren) and Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso) rounded out the top 10. The former had a messy race and the latter a smooth one.
"I'm sorry for the team that I messed things up going into the second corner," Magnussen said, "with the incident with Kimi (Raikkonen.) I think we could have scored some good points today, so I'm disappointed with and for myself, too.
"Grands prix are long races, so I shouldn't have made a mistake like that so early on in the afternoon. But that sort of stuff happens sometimes - and, when it does, you just have to learn from it, and I will. After the incident, it wasn't easy to recover, and we struggled with the high track temperatures, and in the high-speed corners, too."
Now it is on to Bahrain where Williams was the fastest car in preseason testing. Williams may be able to challenge for a podium in Bahrain, but Mercedes is the odds-on favorite to win again.